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'Science Guy' Bill Nye would like a word with anti-vaxxers

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With over 100 million American adults fully vaccinated, the possibility of our country's public health situation returning to a baseline of normality felt like it was within reach. Key word: was. Unfortunately, the same crew of people thwarting our progress toward normalcy are the same people who botched the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, continued to promote anti-science sentiments, and amplified the anti-vaxxer movement. We can and hopefully will be able to contain the virus in the years to come, but we are unlikely to eradicate it for at least a generation.

The sad truth is that the number of anti-COVID-vaccine holdouts has been relatively consistent since December 2020, when the first Pfizer shots were administered to frontline workers. At its highest, U.S. hesitancy has been close to 30% of the adult population, but it has never dropped below 22%. When you add in the fact that children who can't yet take a vaccine make up more than one-fifth of the total U.S. population, this means we are still far away from reaching herd immunity. Mehdi Hasan had Bill Nye, the 'Science Guy' on his MSNBC show to discuss vaccine "hesitancy" and what might puncture through some of that hesitation.

Nye came out hot, first trying to point out the fallibility of anti-vaxxer and Republican Party arguments that vaccines like the ones being rolled out for COVID-19 are an issue of freedom and civil liberties. "This idea that everybody has the freedom to do anything is-we all know that's not exactly right. You can't yell 'fire' in a crowded theater if there's no fire and so on. You can't drive on both sides of the road even though you pay taxes on both sides of the road."

Nye said he hoped that as more people got the vaccine and began living normal-ish lives again, their more hesitant neighbors would see the benefits of becoming vaccinated themselves. But the issue for full vaccination is that pretending this can't get worse before it gets better isn't scientific at all. Sadly, trying to feed science to anti-science-minded Americans has become something of a minefield.

Nye says that it seems that people don't like hearing or using the term "mutate," because the connotations remind some anti-science quarters of our society of Darwin's theories on evolution. In his estimation, the use of "variant" is what scientists might call an olive branch to people who remain skeptical of 150-year-old settled science. "Everybody on the other side, it's not fair to make me wear a mask. it's not fair to make me get vaccinated," he said. "Well, it's not fair to everybody else if you become an incubator for a variant, doggone it."

This is how the numbers have played out:

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